Raven Saunders, US silver medalist who put up ‘X’ gesture after win, suspended for missed doping tests

Raven Saunders, a silver medalist shot putter at the Tokyo Olympics who raised an “X” above her head in protest after receiving her award, was suspended for 18 months for failing to show up for doping tests.

Saunders had committed three “whereabouts failures” within a 12-month period ending on Aug. 15, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced Wednesday. Saunders will miss this year’s world championships but would still be eligible for the Paris Olympics next year.

The 26-year-old joined a growing list of high-profile athletes who faced discipline for missing tests, including world-champion sprinters Christian Coleman and Salwa Eid Naser, according to The Associated Press. A series of missed tests could lead to bans but are not considered proof that an athlete was using a prohibited substance.

Saunders was fourth in the U.S. nationals competition last year and did not qualify for worlds. She then announced she would take the rest of 2022 off – which came about a month before her last missed test. The other two were in January and May.


Raven Saunders, of the United States, competes in the final of the women's shot put at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo.

During the photo op at her medals ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Saunders stepped off the podium, lifted her arms above her head and formed an “X’ with her wrists. 

“It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet,” she said when asked what her protest meant.

Saunders, who is openly gay, has often wondered if the Olympics could live up to the mission of diversity. 

“To be me. To not apologize,” she said in a wide-ranging conversation after her second-place finish. “To show younger people that no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you, and you can accept it. People tried to tell me not to do tattoos and piercings and all that. But look at me now, and I’m poppin’.”

Raven Saunders, of the United States, competes in the qualification rounds of the women's shot put at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tokyo.

Saunders received support from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) after the protest. The International Olympic Committee had relaxed some of its rules regarding protests and political gestures at the Olympics but still barred demonstrations during medal ceremonies. The USOPC said it would not sanction athletes who demonstrated on the podium.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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